ABU DHABI'S ALLURE (IRENA 10TH ASSEMBLY 2020).
Updated: May 19, 2020
Every new year, instead of making resolutions, I get themes. My 2019 journal's theme was 'The Cocoon" inspired obviously by the butterfly's metamorphosis. Had I known how intense it would have been, maybe I would have reconsidered. However, knowing what I know now, I have no regrets and I am so pleased that I soldiered through the hard times and pulled through the other side with wings that would flutter on to more adventures that were and still are in store for me.
Towards the end of 2019, sometime in September, I came across the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) online. It is an intergovernmental organisation whose main aim is to help countries transition fully to sustainable energy in the future. This is by being a repository of information, technology, financial knowledge and resource on renewable energy as well as providing a platform for international cooperation. IRENA recognized the importance of youth as one of the major drivers of change and was calling for applications from youth on the theme: Renewables beyond 2030: The Key Role of Youth in Global Energy Transformation. ( https://www.irena.org/events/2020/Jan/IRENA-Youth-Event )
My essay focused on the following; renewable energy for the eradication of youth unemployment, youth inclusivity in our governments especially during policy making, mentorship from experts in the renewable energy sector and encouraging more girls to take up STEM courses, eventually leading to careers in the energy field. All these were written to fit the Kenyan context. It was through this essay that I was selected as one of the members of the first ever IRENA Youth Forum.
The 10th Session of the IRENA Assembly kicked off on January 10, 2019 at St. Regis, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. The Legislators' Forum started at 1000h and I could tell the tone had taken a strict turn following the COP25 in Madrid where countries could not come to an agreement on matters such as setting rules for carbon markets and setting up time frames for countries' pledges in alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement. 2020 is said to be the Decade of Action where countries will begin to implement (if they hadn't already) their goals in order to keep the global temperatures below 2 degrees by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Legislators insisted not only on international cooperation but also questioning their individual governments on their emissions, information exchange, and critical infrastructure.
Ms Gabriela Cuevas, the Inter-Parliamentary Union's President emphasized that progress would only be made if individual governments were to be held accountable for their actions, co-operation with the international community and most of all, if a budget is set out to execute these not-so-cheap goals.
This is the year that countries will review their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which they committed to. NDCs are usually reviewed after every 5 years. There is a need for speed for the moment of danger is in this present moment. The earth is already heating up; from the numerous forest fires worldwide to the melting of the Himalayas mountain. The proper infrastructure must be put into place to ensure the smooth transition, frameworks need to be crystal clear, and policies need to be simple and straight to the point.
Sierra Leone's Member of Parliament Dr. Kandeh Yumkella stated that the political will needs to be converted to political power. The time for defining and devising plans is over, the time to start and revise these plans is now.
The conversation on renewable energy cannot be held without talking about the women in this sector . As I had mentioned earlier, this was one of the main topics I focused on the essay. It made no sense to me to talk about global efforts to sustain our planet while not including the gender that makes up almost half of the population worldwide. Senator Abshiro Halake highlighted yet another important aspect of it. She called attention to inclusivity opportunities for women and girls in the workforce. Inclusion vis-à-vis renewable energy is crucial as the energy sector and sustainability is at the center of the world. Budgets, policies and legislation that exclude women should not be accepted.
The inaugural Youth Forum was one of a kind. IRENA's Director-General Francesco La Camera saw the need to involve the youth as key players who would catapult the global energy transformation and decided to introduce a "for youth, by youth forum". Being part of this forum was very intense as well as eye-opening. Together with my associates, we identified that the urgency for action is very much present. Although it might seem difficult at first, with many bottlenecks along this journey, shifting to renewable energy is possible. #ItsPossible. Renewable energy is not only beneficial for our planet's future but also has a domino effect to the communities as well as other sectors such as health, education, transport and agriculture. This platform is an extremely important one and we would love to see more engagement in the future. Finally, it is not enough to include the youth in this and stop at that. On the contrary, we, the youth, would love to be equal partners especially when implementation is taking place. This way, we will have been included in the whole process eventually.
It was an absolute pleasure presenting our group ideas to Ditte Juul (Director General at Directorate-General Energy, European Commission) and Dr. Kadeh Yumkella (Member of Parliament, Sierra Leone). Both of them mentioned how excited they were to hear our ideas and implement them in their various spaces. The report on the IRENA Youth Forum is available on this link in case you would like to read more about it.
One of the highlights of this trip was getting to meet The Green Energiewende Sofa. I know it seems bizarre that I wanted to meet a sofa but just stay with me for a second, you'll quickly understand why. So this sofa is green (obviously) and is an icon of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) which is a renowned international forum for major stakeholders in the energy sector. It collaborates with conferences and events as it sparks conversations and thoughts on those sitting on them while travelling the world. My wish for the #Energiewende was to come to more African countries this year and I meant every word of that. The BETD is a champion for the Global Green Deal that will most likely help us reach climate neutrality by 2050.
This Youth Dialogue with the Global Director of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Partnership, Mr. Pablo Vieira went into the initiative's details on its aim to help countries achieve their climate commitments. Personally, the thing I like the most about this model is that these commitments are formulated by the countries themselves. They each decide what would work best for them and after every five years, they get to go back to the drawing board to evaluate what they did right and what they need to improve on. Mr. Pablo relayed the news that there were on-going conversations to include youth on the revised NDCs which is pretty exciting.
This whole experience has been monumental for the goals I shall set for the next few months. I am very grateful for IRENA and all those who made it possible for the Youth Forum to happen. As an eco-warrior, this amplifies my responsibilities as an IRENA Youth Ambassador. I cannot wait to see the progress of all NDCs, how governments will go about the implementation, how the Global Green Energy will play out and how I can (in my own little way) contribute to a better, greener future. And yes, the cocoon I mentioned earlier has prepared me for all these daunting things, but in a way I feel like I was wrong when I said last year was my year for blooming. This one really is my blooming year.
And to the alluring Abu Dhabi, "this isn't Goodbye, it's See You Later!"